ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 10, 2002 -- The Bombardier Learjet 40, which was introduced at the Farnborough Air Show in July, surpassed two major milestones within a week when the prototype of the new super-light business jet flew for the first time on August 31 and the first production model made its maiden flight six days later on September 5.
Both first flights departed from Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport, site of the Bombardier Learjet manufacturing facility and the Bombardier Flight Test Center. Pete Reynolds, vice-president, flight test, and Doug May, flight test and engineering test pilot, were at the controls of both aircraft for the unprecedented double accomplishment. Eric Nordberg acted as flight test engineer on both flights, as well.
"I can't recall any other aircraft program where the test article and the first production model have flown so close together," Mr. Reynolds said. "Normally, once an aircraft concept is announced, it takes months before a prototype is produced and flown. Traditionally, the first production airplane follows significantly later. To fly both within six weeks of the announcement of the concept is pretty extraordinary. We're really pleased that both flights went so well."
The first flight of the Bombardier Learjet 40 prototype took off at 5:05 p.m. on Saturday, August 31 under nearly ideal weather conditions and returned at 7:24 p.m., having reached an altitude of 47,000 feet (14,326 m) and a speed of 270 knots (312 mph; 502 km/h). "The prototype is actually a 'deplugged' Bombardier Learjet 45 which was shortened by 24.5 inches and modified slightly to conform to the systems and dimensions of the Bombardier Learjet 40. We had a very good idea of what to expect from our extensive experience with the Bombardier Learjet 45, but this was still a unique experience. The modifications didn't result in any perceptible change to the flight characteristics," noted Mr. May.
Six days later, at 2:17 p.m. on Thursday, September 5, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. May piloted the first production model of the Bombardier Learjet 40 into clear skies for a two hour and 56 minute flight. They climbed to an altitude of 51,000 feet (15,545 meters) and reached a top speed of 270 knots (312 mph; 502 km/h) while performing a number of system checks. "We found the airplane to be very stable and predictable, which is a tribute to the people who built it," Mr. Reynolds commented. Like the Bombardier Learjet 45 from which it is derived, the Bombardier Learjet 40's fuselage is built at Bombardier's Belfast facility in Northern Ireland. The wing is fabricated at Bombardier's Downsview facility in Ontario and then shipped to Wichita, where the aircraft is assembled.
All of the Bombardier Learjet 40 certification testing will be flown in the two aircraft which flew last week. The first flights were conducted using standard Production Flight Test procedures. The testing will continue over the next year with the prototype (serial number 45-001) focusing on stability and control, flight dynamics, performance, and basic systems changes which differ from the Bombardier Learjet 45. The first production aircraft (serial number 2001) will be assigned to fly production verifications for the redesigned systems and conduct testing related to the interior and available options.
Type certification to stringent regulations from Transport Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected in the third quarter of next year. Certification from the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) is on target for the first quarter of 2004, with entry into service expected soon thereafter.
Combining comfort and performance to light jet customers
Capable of operating at cruise speeds up to Mach 0.81 (534 mph; 859 km/hr), the Bombardier Learjet 40 has a maximum range of 1,803 nautical miles (3,339 km) with four passengers, two crew and IFR reserves and will be certified for operations at altitudes of up to 51,000 feet (15,545 m). With full fuel and a maximum payload it will fly up to 1,685 nm (3,119 km) at Mach 0.73 (481 mph, 774 km/h), and will lead its class in terms of payload-range capability for all missions up to 1,699 nautical miles (3,145 km) with payloads equal to or greater than 1,000 pounds (454 kg).
The Bombardier Learjet 40 provides a 17 feet, eight inches (5.39 m) long cabin, with a width of 5.12 ft (1.56 m) and a height of 4.92 ft (1.50 m). The typical configuration sports a forward club seating arrangement and a flat floor that translates into outstanding seated comfort for up to seven passengers. The improved interior also offers re-designed seats, which are two inches (5 cm) wider and result in additional legroom and a full-size galley, full-across aft lavatory, and a LED lighting system, which lasts longer, is more robust and emits less heat. The aircraft is initially priced at $6.915 million (US).